Dr. Henry Edward Roberts, personal computing pioneer, loses battle with pneumonia

Sad news out of Georgia this morning, Dr. Ed Roberts, pioneer of personal computing, has died of pneumonia at the age of 68. Roberts founded Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS) in 1970. In 1974 his company released the $395 Altair 8800. It was based on Intel's revolutionary 8080 processor and, after being featured on the cover of Popular Electronics (included after the break), would become the world's first truly popular personal computer. It would be on this machine that the former Micro-Soft would get its start, with Bill Gates and Paul Allen being contracted by Roberts to write Altair BASIC, a version of the simple programming language that Allen delivered by hand on paper tape to the MITS office in Albuquerque.

Those two are remembering him today with the following statement:

Ed was willing to take a chance on us -- two young guys interested in computers long before they were commonplace -- and we have always been grateful to him... The day our first untested software worked on his Altair was the start of a lot of great things. We will always have many fond memories of working with Ed in Albuquerque, in the MITS office right on Route 66 -- where so many exciting things happened that none of us could have imagined back then.

Our thoughts go out to the Roberts family this morning.